Citizenship, as defined in a dictionary, is delimited by the rights and duties of a citizen. The nation to which a citizen belongs, in turn, owes a duty of protection to its people. This rather clinical detailing of mutual obligations fails to address the emotive aspects of citizenship. And it is this latter part of the equation that is becoming increasingly important. More children are being born overseas to Singaporean parents, with 1,576 citizenships granted to these newborns in 2018. This is 339 more than in 2008, a 27 per cent increase in the past decade or so. This is inevitable as more Singaporeans chase livelihoods and career dreams overseas. As of last June, some 217,200 Singaporeans were based overseas, up from 180,700 about a decade ago. In this globalised age, where major cities compete fiercely for top-tier talents, more Singaporeans armed with a world-class education and cultural sensitivities will head for work/life opportunities abroad.
Previous decades have seen a fair share of hand-wringing. In 2002, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's description of some Singaporeans as "quitters" for cutting ties and leaving when the country ran into difficult times generated significant debate. In a 2017 survey by the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Community, seven in 10 Singaporean youth aged 18 to 35 were looking to move overseas. That many who ventured forth are now looking back to their home country for the next generation is a good thing. They recognise their roots, and wish to cultivate this sense of belonging in the next generation.